CFBA lobbyists Abi Roach (left) and Jon Liedtke (right) attended a cash-for-access Liberal fundraiser for Bill Blair last April.

Liberals to return donations from Cannabis Friendly Business Association

The federal Liberal Party announced yesterday (Nov. 28) they’ll be refunding donations from representatives of the Cannabis Friendly Business Association (CFBA) after the Globe & Mail reported they attended a cash-for-access fundraiser last spring with Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief who is now the parliamentary secretary to the Justice Minister and leading the Trudeau government’s cannabis legalization plan.

The April 28 event at Toronto law firm Aird & Berlis LLP – held two months after Blair was appointed to the role – appears to violate internal Liberal Party rules on political fundraisers that direct cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries to avoid an “appearance of preferential access.”

CFBA organizers Abi Roach and Jon Liedtke both went to the $150-per-person fundraiser attended by Blair and also had their photo taken with him.

“While the lobbying code is clear that such individuals may be able to attend grassroots fundraisers, these contributions are now in the process of being returned to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest,” said Liberal Party spokesman Braeden Caley in an email. “The individuals associated with the organization … appear to have only registered with the lobbying commissioner on or after the date of the event itself, and therefore the party would not have been aware in advance of their activities.”

The CFBA represents cannabis dispensary owners and craft growers who want the federal government to permit storefront pot shops. One of the firm’s partners is a corporate secretary in a cannabis industry, while another helped a client launch a medical cannabis startup.

Roach told the Globe she chatted with Blair for roughly 10 minutes about the importance of allowing independence in the cannabis industry.

Blair has also met with other members of the craft cannabis community in advance of the new regulations, including hearing input from Rosy Mondin of the Cannabis Trade Alliance of Canada last summer. Blair reportedly asked Mondin which dispensary owners and growers the government’s legalization task force should interview to include in the group’s report that will outline recommendations on recreational cannabis legalization.